Supreme Court Grants Greater Protection against Retaliation for FLSA Complaints

 

        The Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision today that has provided workers with added protection from employers retaliating against employees who complain about violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The FLSA is the federal statute that establishes employment rules and regulations (i.e. minimum wage, overtime pay, etc.). The statute also has an anti-retaliation provision that prohibits an employer from terminating or discriminating against an employee that has “filed any complaint” alleging violations of the FLSA, testified or is going to testify, or served on an industry committee. In the suit of Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., Kasten alleged that Saint-Gobain violated this FLSA provision by terminating him for verbally complaining to company officials about not being compensated for time spent donning and doffing mandatory protective gear and walking to work areas between the timeclocks and the changing rooms. Before being granted certiorari by the Supreme Court, the Western District Court of Wisconsin first ruled that Saint-Gobain had violated the FLSA by failing to compensate its employees for time spent donning and doffing protective gear, but ruled unfavorably as to Kasten’s retaliation claim. The District Court concluded that only written complaints were covered under the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit also agreed with the District Court’s interpretation of the FLSA. However, upon review of the suit, the Supreme Court clarified that the FLSA anti-retaliation provision encompassed both written and oral complaints. The Supreme Court explained that, among other things, limiting the definition of “filing a complaint” to only written complaints completely undermines the purpose of the anti-retaliation provision, which is to forbid “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers,” 29 U.S.C. §202(a).

        This decision is a huge win for all FLSA covered employees and is another step in the right direction toward ensuring a better and more equal workplace.

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